Monday, August 15, 2011

Status of the TD in colleges

I ran across a set of articles today by David R. Batcheller. The first, published in the Quarterly Journal of Speech in December of 1962 was called “The Status of the Technical Director in American Educational Theatre: A Survey”. The second was a follow up article, published in Educational Theatre Journal, Vol 25, No 4 (Dec. 1973), was called “The Status of the Designer / TD in American Educational Theatre, 1961-1971.
From the first article, my first, immediate, reaction was curiosity that the title of technical director was offered up as the second position hired after the position of Director, and that most of these people were not only responsible for the execution of all technical elements, but also for their design. My previous research indicates that the person after the director is usually the designer (after the “director” position was established).
Perhaps the other interesting takeaway is that not much has changed over the years. Production space, help, and the arrangement between teaching versus production work are all still issues. Getting tenure is still an issue – in the 1962 article Batcheller says “The nature of the technicians’ work frequently is misunderstood”. And that “No policy on rank and advancement for technicians has been generally adopted.”
Another notable thing was that in the second article showed that over the course of the decade there was a rise the occurrence of doctorate degrees in the Technical Director position. Previously there was a mix of M. A. and M. F. A. degrees only. As a M. F. A. is “terminal” degree in theatre technology and design, a doctorate is unnecessary and even unavailable unless you switch fields. Achieving tenure should not be an issue with an M. F. A., and certainly would qualify you for a teaching position. It makes me wonder what these Doctorate degrees were in and the purpose behind them – an attempt at tenure? Or someone taking a technical job as a way to get their foot into the program at large.
I make the last statement because even 50 years ago, the position of the Technical Director was viewed as a “young man’s job”, and most of these positions were transitory. Where these young men went afterwards, I don’t know, but there are still many many colleges out there where the TD tends to only stay a few years, teach only stagecraft (if that) and are more of a “staff” position than a full faculty member.
At any rate, it is fascinating to see a viewpoint on Technical Direction from 50 years ago.

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